“Loyal” is typically the first adjective people use when describing dogs. They’ve been our best friend for thousands of years, after all. But some pups fit that endearing description more than others.
There are some breeds that are simply more independent-minded, or their behavior is driven by food rather than human affection. That doesn’t make them bad dogs; it’s just how they were bred to be. But we wanted to highlight some of the dog breeds that will stick by their human’s side through thick and thin.
Here are some of the breeds that are considered the most loyal in the world.
Japan’s most beloved animal — aside from maybe those cute cat figures that wave — is the Akita. This beloved breed doesn’t just warm up to anyone, though. These large dogs are known to be chilly to strangers but very affectionate with people they know, a trait you’ll see is common among many of the most loyal breeds. Bred exclusively in Japan for centuries, the first Akita to go overseas was given as a gift to Helen Keller in the 1930s.
Wouldn’t you just love to see that big, sweet face every time you came home from work? The Alaskan Malamute is another large breed that’s known for being loyal to the people in its life. These dogs will typically weigh anywhere from 70 to 90 pounds and are very strong, which makes sense given their background as sled dogs. “Mals” are playful, gentle and perfect companions for kids, and they typically live for 10 to 14 years, according to the American Kennel Club.
American Staffordshire Terrier
These beautiful and very smart pups were bred for dog fighting in Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries — but thankfully, they don’t have to be put through that anymore. Given their intelligence, this breed can be trained fairly easily. The American Kennel Club says “AmStaffs” are evenly tempered dogs who are very sweet to their friends. The group calls them “a loyal, trustworthy friend to the end.”
You can’t ask for a much more loyal companion than one that’s willing to protect you, and that’s what the Anatolian Shepherd was born for. These natural guard dogs are massive, growing up to 150 pounds, making them the kind of friend you’d love to have on your side. Anatolian Shepherds are not known as particularly cuddly dogs but they absolutely adore their families, while giving strangers the cold shoulder.
These gifted swimmers were used as companions on hunting trips in France for centuries. These days, the Barbet — which takes its name from the French word for “beard” — is a hairy, fun-loving pal. They’re medium-sized dogs who will grow to anywhere from 35 to 65 pounds as adults. The American Kennel Club says they’re known for being friendly, social and very loyal, making them perfect for people who like to entertain guests.
Black Russian Terrier
Like the Anatolian Shepherd, the undying loyalty of a Black Russian Terrier comes from the breed’s natural desire to protect the people it loves. These large, shaggy dogs were bred to be police dogs and search-and-rescue helpers. Black Russian Terriers are very smart, making them easy to train, according to Purina. Just be ready to do some serious grooming to keep that beautiful hair looking its best.
Like some other loyal pups on this list, boxers were initially bred for brutal purposes, such as fighting and hunting large animals. But today they’re one of the most popular breeds in the world, especially for families who want a pet. These medium-to-large dogs have adorable faces and truly love the people in their lives. Boxers are very protective of their families, especially of children. Purina says they “thrive on human company and affection.”
If you want a friend that’s loyal but will also keep you entertained, the Brussels Griffon is perfect. The American Kennel Club says these tiny dogs have “enough personality for 10 ordinary dogs.” Brussels Griffons, or “Griffs,” are so attached to their humans that they hate being left alone, so be prepared to take your pal with you on trips! After all, loyalty is a two-way street.
There’s a reason the owners of Toy Poodles tend to stick firmly with that breed alone. These cute little pups are among the smartest and most confident in the entire canine kingdom. Of course, with all that swagger comes some high-maintenance behavior, as the American Kennel Club warns that they expect to be treated like a person, rather than a common pet. If you treat them as such, expect to have a lifelong companion.
We’re singling out the Bullmastiff here, but you can also count the French Mastiff, Neapolitan Mastiff and Tibetan Mastiff as some of the world’s most loyal dogs. Their sense of affection for their people is as large as their bodies, which easily weigh more than 100 pounds and can stand as tall as many adults when on their back legs. A cross between a bulldog and a mastiff, Bullmastiffs are extremely laid-back at home and are happy to just chill on the couch with the person they love most — as long as they can fit.
Cardigan Welsh Corgi
The less popular of the two types of corgi, Cardigan Welsh Corgis are fun companions that simply love being sweet with their humans. These low-to-the-ground pups are classified as affectionate, smart and loyal by the experts at the American Kennel Club. Initially bred for moving cattle, the AKC calls them “a masterpiece of the breeder’s art” because their makeup is so suited to this job.
Catahoula Leopard Dog
If you’re a native Southerner, you might find a kindred spirit in the Catahoula leopard dog, as it’s the only dog breed to have its origins traced back to the state of Louisiana, according to the American Kennel Club. These beautiful, short-haired pups are known to be territorial and protective of their home and family. In addition to helping keep you safe, the AKC calls Catahoulas “loyal companions.”
Small and fluffy, the Chinese Crested is the perfect companion for anyone who wants a pocket-sized pup they can call a friend for many years. These pretty little dogs can typically live to be 18 years old, which is double the life expectancy of some larger breeds. Purina says Cresteds are “playful, loving companions” who served as onboard company for Chinese sailors for centuries.
Another breed that traces its roots back to ancient China, Chow Chows have kind of a bad rep for being stubborn and independent — but they will always be a friend to their human. These fluffy dogs are highly intelligent and take very good care of themselves in terms of hygiene. Chow Chows could care less about showing off for strangers, but the American Kennel Club says they are “eternally loyal to loved ones.”
If you want a terrier but are worried about the endless energy they seem to want to burn off, the Cesky might be the pet for you. These dignified-looking dogs are a bit more laid back than other terriers but still enjoy a nice game of fetch thanks to their origins as hunting dogs. Ceskys are not known for being friendly to people they are unfamiliar with but Purina calls them a “loyal, loving family companion.”
Bullseye, the iconic mascot for Target, might be the world’s most famous Bull Terrier — and it’s easy to understand why they chose this breed to represent their company. These playful pups are known for their endless charm and character. In fact, the American Kennel Club calls them the “ultimate ‘personality breed.'” In addition to being funny and full of energy, the AKC says “there is no more loyal, lovable and entertaining companion” than the Bull Terrier.
If you’re looking for a loyal friend who is also pretty low-maintenance, you could do much worse than the Manchester Terrier. These sleek dogs, typically weighing in at 12 to 22 pounds, don’t require quite as much stimulation or exercise as other terriers, according to Purina. They’re also a cinch to groom. Manchester Terriers were bred as rat hunters, so they’re naturally brave and protective of their homes, even if they are dwarfed by other watchdog breeds.
Dobermans are another example of a dog whose loyalty stems from their common use as fierce protectors. These magnificent pups have been used as police and military dogs for more than a century and still make wonderful guard dogs today. They are very intelligent as well as immensely brave. Dobermans aren’t the most cuddly pups in the world but if you want one that will always look out for you and your home without question, they are arguably the best choice. The American Kennel Club even calls them “royalty in the canine kingdom.”
One eternally loyal breed that might prove fierce competition to the Doberman in the world’s best guard dog category is the German shepherd. In addition to having a long pedigree as gifted protectors, German Shepherds are also perfect as family pets. Purina says they love children and describes them as “loving, loyal and even-tempered” companions. But their intelligence, athletic ability and protective instincts are why they’re the top choice for many police departments who need canine officers.
Similar to some of the other dogs on this list who were born to be watchful guardians, the South Korean Jindo is more interested in protecting its humans than entertaining them. But these independent-minded pups are forever loyal to the people who care for them. The American Kennel Club also says Jindos are not as food-motivated as other breeds, preferring to eat sparingly.
These playful pups basically look like big mops and are one of the most energetic large breeds you’ll ever find. Komondors, who typically weigh at least 100 pounds if they’re males, need to be walked multiple times each day to stay happy and healthy. These dogs were bred in Hungary to protect livestock, making them especially territorial. Purina says they are “fiercely loyal” to their humans and that they love having a job to do.
You’d better have some patience if you’re looking into adopting a Kuvasz — but if you do, you’ll find an incredible friend. This breed, which originated in Hungary, is renowned for its beauty but also for being stubborn and difficult to train. However, the American Kennel Club calls this protective breed “profoundly loyal” if you’re fine with having a strong-willed, furry companion.
How could a list of the most loyal pups be complete without the Labrador retriever? Arguably the most beloved breed in the world — and America’s most popular since 1991 — these pups are known for being incredibly friendly and easy to train. Labs love to please people, so you can bet you’ll always have a furry friend who’s glad to see you when you’ve got one of them waiting at home.
Miniature American Shepherd
One of the most beautiful dogs on the planet, the miniature American shepherd is essentially a smaller version of the Australian shepherd, which is what it was bred from. These pups typically weigh 20 to 40 pounds as adults and seem to love spending time with horses, likely as a result of their instincts as herders. “Minis” are smart, hard-working dogs that the American Kennel Club calls “endearingly loyal and lively companion dogs.”
This is another small breed that was bred to hunt rats — but has since become more of a general companion dog. Norwich Terriers are brave and adaptable to virtually any living situation, whether it be rural or urban. The American Kennel Club says Norwich Terriers are very easy to love, given their “jovial, affectionate and loyal temperament.” These pups are eager to please their humans, making them great at learning tricks, provided you have enough treats to spare, of course.
You might not think of these 10-pound furballs as ideal watchdogs, but that’s exactly what the Pekingese is. One of China’s most cherished and oldest breeds, the “little lion” is always on alert and will let you know when something is amiss. In addition to that skill, the Pekingese is renowned as an affectionate and good-natured dog breed, according to Purina. They don’t need much exercise, so feel free to just chill on the couch with them. But be ready to brush that luscious hair often.
Pointers have been a staple of England’s breeding scene since the 1600s, initially being used as helpers on hunting trips. While they’re muscular, gifted athletes, Purina also says Pointers make great family dogs because they are affectionate and protective at home. These dogs don’t need much help in the way of grooming but they do need plenty of mental stimulation.
How could your day not immediately improve when you arrive home to see this friendly face? Rotties offer that perfect mix of playful fun and serious protection that few other breeds are able to provide, which is what has made them one of the most beloved breeds on the planet. These dogs are described with three simple, yet powerful, adjectives by the American Kennel Club: “loyal, loving, confident.” That unquestionable loyalty makes sense when you realize they were descended from mastiffs.
The countries of North Africa count the Sloughi as perhaps their most beloved breed. These sleek hounds date back as far as 10,000 years in that region, according to the American Kennel Club, making them one of the oldest breeds around. Like other hounds, these pups are incredible athletes who are able to reach high speeds with ease, but the AKC says they are truly treasured for their loyalty to their humans.
West Highland White Terrier
Another small but brilliant pup who you can count on to be your companion for life is the West Highland White Terrier. This Scottish breed is regarded as “an affectionate, happy and faithful” family pet by the dog experts at Purina. You’ll be in for plenty of brushing and playtime with this energetic dog but if you can keep up with them, they’ll love you forever.